Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals have enjoyed a phenomenal first half of baseball in 2012.
The Nationals have 49 wins and own the best record in the National League. Harper is fresh off his first career All-Star appearance, an appearance that made him the youngest position player (19 years, 268 days) to ever appear in the Midsummer Classic.
Washington has suffered from a slew of injuries that have really hurt the team. Jayson Werth, Michael Morse and Drew Storen have all missed significant time, and catcher Wilson Ramos will be sidelined for the rest of the 2012 season.
Werth and Storen will be returning in the second half, and Morse has just recently returned. The addition of those three stars will be better than nearly any midseason trade that the team could make.
With a healthy Morse and Werth in a lineup that features a red-hot Ryan Zimmerman, a breakout Adam LaRoche and the young Harper, the Nationals offense has a legitimate shot at becoming one of the better ones in the National League.
Harper will be the key to the Nationals offense in the second half, though.
In the first half of the season, Harper outperformed the expectations placed upon him and his early promotion to the major leagues. That being said, there’s still room for improvement.
He hit .282/.354/.472 with eight home runs, 25 RBI, four triples and ten stolen bases.
The Nationals will need him to add some more power, as well as run production, if they want to take the next step in becoming an elite team.
Harper definitely has all the tools to do so. Consistency has plagued him so far in his young career, so finding a steady swing and not getting into prolonged slumps will be a huge development in his game.
Such developments will definitely happen in the second half.
With 63 games under his belt, Harper knows how the league operates. Pitchers are still learning how to adjust to his strengths, so there’s a great chance that he goes on an extended hot streak at some point this summer.
When he does, look out. The Nationals will be a very scary team with Harper leading the offense.